Mr. Mellor Speaks of the Power of Pessimism

At school meeting on Wednesday, October 3, Mr. Don Mellor ’71, talked about pessimism. Mellor’s talk was part of “Ask Me Anything,” Northwood’s weekly speaker series for students and faculty, presented Mr. Martinez and the Office of Multicultural Affairs each Wednesday. This year’s theme is “Gaining Perspective. The Mirror staff writer Sarah Bennett ‘19 sat down with Mellor to discuss his talk and how it came about.


Mr. Don Mellor at his school meeting talk. (Photo: Ms. Christine Ashe)

Mr. Mellor decided to speak about pessimism to illustrate that thinking about the worst can help bring about the best. He wanted to inform the students that we are all very lucky, and we can’t always expect the world to give us everything.  “Things can go wrong,” he said. “Have a plan.”

“I read a lot of newspapers, and I keep saying, “Oh my gosh, we’ve got it so easy. All these refugees, they don’t have food. If you could be anyone in the world, you would be pretty lucky to be a student at Northwood,” said Mellor.

Pessimism is an extremely personal topic for him. Being a very pessimistic person, he doesn’t seem to take things too seriously. If anything is to happen, why wouldn’t it happen to Mr. Mellor? Or to anyone at school? What is the good in crying about it?

“I expect to go to the doctors and be told I have cancer,” said Mellor. “When that happens I’ll say ‘Oh whatever, no kidding, everybody gets cancer.’ I don’t think that sounds negative.”

There is no particular message that Mr. Mellor wanted to get across to the students. “Over the years, I’ve gotten more reluctant to think that I should stand up and tell someone what to think,” he said. His speech didn’t teach the students something in particular. It made us realize how lucky we are.

Mellor noted that teenagers don’t learn from what we are told. We learn from experience and by watching others around us. He wanted to make sure the students knew how lucky we are and how expecting the worst can push us to work harder towards our goals.

He most importantly wanted to make sure the students would learn how to cope with bad news and to come back from it rather than think, “why did this happen to me?”

Although everyone is wearing a backpack filled with different good and bad experiences, it can’t be the end of the world when something bad comes our way. The ups and downs are how we grow.  “I don’t want anyone to feel guilty about winning the lottery, but everybody is not going to make the NHL. Sorry.” Addressing the hockey players, he said, “When you don’t make the NHL, how are you going to deal with it?”

Mr. Mellor was hesitant to talk about his personal life and personal issues in front of everyone because he did not want to make his speech self-centered. Most of his audience knew about his personal experience with his daughter, who had a near-fatal traumatic brain injury at Whiteface Mountain when she was young, made everyone understand why pessimism can be positive.

To conclude the interview, Mellor said that he did not wish someone would have told him about pessimism when he was a teenager because everything he learned and applied was from previous experiences. “I don’t think I wish someone would have told me this because it was my own internal wheels turning, and I don’t think we learn much from listening to people talk. You have to experience it.”


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